Chakra Living

At a concert, a bhakta's Gita changed my life

by Jason Pearson

Posted November 21, 2003

It is fascinating to hear how people first came into contact with the devotees, how they first met their guru maharaja, or how a certain aspect of the philosophy transformed their lives.

Often times, a person's first encounter is with a devotee who is distributing books on the street. This is most fortunate because it's likely that that person will go home with a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-Gita As It Is.

I am personally quite fond of how Krsna revealed Himself to me, though I'm sure that I was just one of many persons to have this experience.

It was the summer of '93 in Washington, D.C. Some friends and I had driven up to the city from Richmond, Virginia, to go see the hardcore band "Shelter" play with "108" at a warehouse concert. I knew that Shelter was into some eastern philosophy, but I wasn't exactly sure what.

We parked and walked down an alley filled with tour vans, punk kids and . . . people in saffron clothes with shaved heads? My friends seemed to ignore all that and rush in to see the opening bands, while I just walked around outside and tried to take it all in.

Within minutes, a group of brahmacaris started a kirtan right outside of the warehouse doors. You could still hear the band from inside, each time the door opened and closed. I was stunned; I didn't know what to think. I hid in the back and observed for the entire length of the kirtan. I missed three opening bands as I smiled at the spectacle and found myself tapping my foot to the pulsating rhythm of the instruments.

After some time, I drifted over to the book table and struck up a conversation with a devotee whose name I can't remember (but whom I will never forget). He offered me a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita and, after some hesitation and explanation, I made a donation, put the book in my backpack and went in to watch 108 play their set. Can you believe that there were brahmacaris in the "pit" going nuts for these two Krsna conscious, hardcore bands!

On the way out of the show, I stopped by the prasadam table and experienced Krsna's mercy for the first time. I let my friend drive home, so that I could read in the backseat. I was floored by the book . . . but I didn't know how to begin to understand it.

Less than two months later, I moved with my family from Richmond to the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. With no friends to hang out with, I spent the remainder of the summer reading Bhagavad-Gita. I called the Cleveland temple (at that time it was a small home temple run by Ramvirya das and Divyananda dasi) to find out if I could visit. They encouraged me to come; I explained that I didn't have a car and I lived 30 minutes from the temple.

They took down directions to my place and reassured me that someone would pick me up and get me to the program. Sure enough, a mysterious car pulled up in my driveway that evening and a young brahmacari introduced himself and kindly escorted me to the first and most amazing temple experience of my life.

By Krsna's arrangement, I met some of the same Krishnafest traveling devotees who had been in Washington, D.C. for that show just months before. They were traveling with HH Gunagrahi das Goswami, who was the first devotee to explain to me the significance of the Bhagavad-Gita, and the first person to ever teach me how to chant Hare Krsna.

So, I was given the Bhagavad-Gita by a Krishnafest devotee in D.C. and then Krsna arranged for my first class on Bhagavad-Gita to be given by Gunagrahi Maharaja.

I still speak with Maharaja on occasion via e-mail and he will always hold a special place in my heart, but I never got to thank that devotee in D.C. who, for me, did the greatest welfare work of all . . . he saw to it that this fallen fool received a copy of the only book that could have ever saved me!